NYPD Confidential - An Inside Look at the New York Police Department
Home Page
All Columns
Books
Biography
Contact Leonard Levitt
Search this site
 
Printable version   Send to a friend   Email Leonard Levitt

Ray Kelly Stalks The Police Foundation

May 18, 2009

Has Police Commissioner Ray Kelly hijacked the nonprofit, and supposedly independent, Police Foundation to further his own image and agenda?

The city’s 41st police commissioner appears to have taken over the group’s funding decisions, objected to its salary structure, and instituted a new $15,000 annual award — named for himself: “The Raymond W. Kelly Graduate Scholarship.” [See details in the box below.]

THE RAYMOND W. KELLY GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP

The New York City Police Department is proud to announce the Raymond W. Kelly Graduate Scholarship.  This scholarship will provide a uniformed member of the service with a one time grant of $15,000. In addition, the scholarship will afford the applicant a 10½-month paid leave of absence to earn their graduate degree.

The scholarship is to be applied towards a degree in a Police-related or Governmental Administration program, at any of the following graduate schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Georgetown University, New York University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. 

ELIGIBILITY:

bulletMust be in the rank of Police Officer through Captain.
bulletApplicant must have a minimum of seven (7) years of service in good standing.
bulletApplicant must have earned a Baccalaureate Degree from an accredited college or university with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher.
bulletMust be a matriculated student.

At the same time, Kelly has become the face of a recent public relations campaign to raise the foundation’s profile among the city’s rich and famous. After the foundation hired a new PR firm, Kelly began appearing in fashion and travel magazines.

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the foundation has raised double the amount of money it has in the past, taking in $6 million last year.

While Kelly is part of that success, the additional money has also flowed because of New Yorkers’ fears of another attack, fears Kelly has stoked by denigrating virtually all federal law enforcement agencies and presenting himself as the sole person standing between the city and another 9/11.

Founded after the Knapp Commission in 1971 as an anti-corruption measure, the foundation was meant to help raise private donations for police work — not to become a police commissioner’s vanity charity, funding programs not in the department’s operating budget.

Not that past commissioners did not attempt to treat it as such. William Bratton used the foundation to fund expensive studies of the department by his consultant buddy, John Linder, and his professor friend, George Kelling. Kelling's reports invariably praised Bratton. One of them compared Bratton to Plato.

Bernie Kerik used the foundation to pay for 30 plaster-of-Paris busts of himself, costing several thousand dollars.

Only rarely has the foundation has balked at a commissioner’s demand. In perhaps its finest hour, it rejected Howard Safir’s brainstorm that it pay for a newspaper advertisement to counter a PBA no-confidence vote in him.

But, more than any other commissioner, Kelly has inserted himself into the foundation’s daily affairs.

He has grumbled that salaries are too high since some officials there earn more than his chiefs.

Sources say he handpicks the winners of “The Raymond W. Kelly Graduate Scholarship,” who get a stipend of $15,000 and a 10½-month paid absence to obtain graduate degrees in governmental administration or a police-related program at such Ivy League redoubts as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia. [Kelly’s well-publicized attempt after 9/11 to recruit Ivy League grads to the department bombed.]

Kelly has also put his stamp on an award for disabled officers. Formerly the “Theodore Roosevelt Association Police Award” after the department’s turn-of-the-century commissioner who became the nation’s president, it is now called the “Police Commissioner’s Theodore Roosevelt Award.”

Sources say that when the award’s former sponsors — including at least one Roosevelt heir — objected to the name change and withdrew their funding, Kelly pressed the Police Foundation to take up the slack. The awards are now more lavish affairs than in the past, and recognize more disabled officers.

And in a move reminiscent of Safir’s installing his wife as the chairwoman of the city-funded police museum, Kelly has placed his wife Veronica in a high-level, unpaid slot with the foundation. When last we heard of Mrs. Kelly, her husband’s elite detective detail was driving her about town — sometimes, at her direction, with lights and sirens.

Kelly abruptly ended that practice in late 2006 after state comptroller Alan Hevesi was tagged with using aides to chauffeur his wife. Now Veronica Kelly helps organize the foundation’s special events and its annual fundraising gala at the Waldorf Astoria.

Kelly has also complained that the foundation was not raising as much money for the NYPD as Caroline Kennedy had for the city’s public schools. Result: the hiring of a new public relations guy — a former Ralph Lauren executive, Hamilton South.

 
Leonard Levitt's new book, NYPD Confidential: Power and Corruption in the Country's Greatest Police Force, will be out in stores July 21. Preorder it today by clicking on the book at right.

South’s website describes him as an “industry leader in communications, marketing and strategic planning [whose] roster of clients include fashion and lifestyle consumer brands as well as corporate, media and civic concerns.”

“His firm was retained to raise the foundation’s image among the deep-pocketed and to better position it for fundraising,” says a source.

“His focus was on promoting Kelly as the foundation’s face, and the main strategy seems to be to introduce the police commissioner to A-listers, ostensibly to promote the foundation’s work among the rich and famous.”

No doubt as a result of South’s work, Kelly appeared in Men’s Vogue last year, wearing what the magazine described as “”a bespoke Martin Greenfield suit, French cuffs fastened with weighty gold links and a gold-colored Charvet tie. [‘My big weakness,’ he confided.]”

Hey, if you’re the only person standing between the city and another terrorist attack, why not look your best?

The magazine also gushed that “Kelly is a fixture on the city’s social circuit,” and that “he appears in society photographs with actresses like Ellen Barkin, designers like Ralph Lauren, and pop stars like Mark Anthony [for whom he played the bongos]” at last year’s police foundation fundraiser at the Waldorf.

Another article, in the travel magazine Departures said that Kelly "doesn't make a point of wearing designer labels,” but that he has “got the basic elements of real style: intelligence, charisma, total individuality, and a track record of impressive accomplishments."

South’s hiring coincided with Kelly’s rumored interest in running for mayor. Remember when Kelly was spotted up at Columbia University reading to children? Or when he accepted the “Presidential Excellence and Diversity Award" from the Sepia Skin Care company at Justin’s restaurant, owned by rapper Sean [P. Diddy] Combs?

At least one foundation board member wondered whether South got Kelly and Veronica invited to A-list parties where South introduced him to potential mayoral contributors. South did not return a phone call, seeking comment.

Kelly’s mayoral campaign was aborted last year when Mayor Michael Bloomberg purchased the votes of enough city council members to overturn the city’s two-term limit law.

Kelly’s control over the foundation has been abetted by its chairwoman, Valerie Salembier, a vice president of the Hearst Corporation. Head of the foundation since 2005, she views it as a subsidiary of the NYPD.

Despite her position at a media conglomerate, [she is publisher of Harper’s Bazaar magazine] she refuses to provide information about the foundation, instead referring inquiries to the police department. She, too, did not return a phone call, seeking comment.

Nor did the foundation’s president, Pam Delaney, return a phone call.

Nor did Kelly’s spokesman, Paul Browne return an email message.

Most important to Kelly is that the foundation pays nearly $1 million a year in living expenses for a dozen or so NYPD detectives posted around the world in what the former head of the FBI’s New York office Mark Mershon described as Kelly’s “signature” anti-terrorism program.

Such supposed terror hotspots include Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic. It is not clear what purpose is served by stationing an NYPD detective there, other than to tweak Safir, who unsuccessfully sought an NYPD Dominican outpost to fight drugs lords.

Meanwhile, Kelly has publicly supported a cause dear to Salembier: attacking counterfeiters of high-end goods like Gucci and Prada handbags, which are advertised in her magazine, with an $80,000 Police Foundation grant for “buy money” to catch the bad guys.

In addition, Kelly serves as a speaker in Salembier’s annual anti-counterfeiting “summit,” linking the department’s crackdown on the high-end counterfeiters to its fight against terrorism, arguing that counterfeiters use profits to fund terrorist groups. If that’s a stretch, what about all those guys in Chinatown hawking knock-off handbags?

Last March, the foundation’s annual fundraiser, held again at the Waldorf, raised $2 million, most of which went for the overseas detectives’ expenses. Veronica Kelly, serving on the gala committee, weighed in on the décor [flowers and candles at each table], the menu [tenderloin] and the entertainment. [Cindy Lauper, who performed pro bono, was its featured singer.]

As Lauper began her first number, Veronica got up to dance. For perhaps a minute, she danced by herself, the only person on the floor. She finally found a partner — Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, whose husband is the MTA chairman and a police foundation trustee.

« Back to top